Environmental Art Visionaries: A sneak peak into Christo and Jean Claude's most ambitious project yet ...

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We at ThinkLab have always admired the sheer scale and impact of the art installations this pair of fine artists have been creating over the past 50 years.  So it was with eagerness that we wanted to share with you Dezeen’s selection of their 8 most prolific works from this period, recently featured in one of their articles.

Interestingly, Christo and Jean-Claude share the same birthdays but were born in 1935 in different countries –  Christo is Bulgarian, and Jean-Claude Morrocan.    The pair came to meet at the age of 21 when Christo, who fled the austere Stalinist regime of Bulgaria for Paris, was commissioned to paint Jean Claude’s mother’s portrait.  The rest is history as the pair married, followed by an enduring collaboration creating artworks of an absolutely breathtaking scale:  Landscapes were literallly wrapped, floating walkways appeared upon an Italian lake, and most recently, 7,506 custom made barrels form a floating structure called entitled “The London Mastaba” at the Serpentine Lake in London seen in the image above.

Christo and Jean Claude. Image via Dezeen.

This artistic union lasted until Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009.

With utter determination to maintain their own artistic freedome, Christo and Jean-Claude were known to self-fund their installations through the sale of their own artworks.  After the completion of every work to date, all the materials used were recycled and their chosen location for the installation, returned to its original state.

As Dezeen points out, “their work defies categorisation”.  That is perhaps why it is so memorable – through each installations sheer size and their resolute commitment to realising their vision every time, the viewer is wowed on both an experiential level and through the captivating photographs taken to record this unique journey.

For ThinkLab as CGI visualisers and architectural marketers, we can always learn from and build on our visual expertise and skills from the world of art, photography and design – past, present and future.

A blending  of art, architecture and sculpture indeed.  Below we show you highlights from Dezeen’s pick of their most prolific works … finishing with one that Christo has planned as a permanent installation in the Abu Dhabi desert, but is yet to be realised …

Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1969

This installation was put into place for ten weeks, and was created using 92,900 square meters of fabric that wrapped 1.5 miles of the Australian coastline.  Christo and Jean Claude employed 15 mountain climbers and an additional 110 workers to install the unique concept that took only four weeks.


Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1972

“Valley Curtain” involved the suspension of an orange curtain between two mountains in the American state of Colorado.  417 metres of cable was used to hang the fabric at a height of 111 metres. Sadly after just 28 hours, high winds forced the removal of the piece, after a 28 month planning period!

Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1983

We have always admired Christo and Jean-Claude’s clever use of fabric on a large scale captured in the photographic images that record these temporary pieces.  This installation is no exception, using 603,870 square meters of fabric that was used to engulg a series of islands in Biscayne Bay.  Rafts were constructed to float the fabric over a two week period.

After this project was taken down, the islands were in a much better condition as the workers who realised the installation had removed 40 tons of rubbish that had washed up on the shores.

Scale model of The Mastaba for Abu Dhabi, unbuilt

… And finally  an artists impression of the ambitious plans Christo’s late wife Jean-Claude had to build a permanent piece of work in the desert in Abu Dhabi is certainly an inspiring vision.  One can see from the people who surrounding it, the sheer scale of this mighty structure.   With the multicoloured Mastaba installation currently in place at London’s Serpentine Lake, this incredible scaled up version would be constructed from 410,000 barrels!

We will definitely be keeping an eye on this story to see if Christo is able to realise the dream of making one of the pair’s environmental works of art permanent within his lifetime.

Reference Dezeen. All images Dezeen.